Another week, another couple mass shootings. This time, an elementary school including a class full of kindergarten 20+ children are dead.
Here are some tips for helping your children cope with this tragedy.
1- Adults need to process their own feelings and fears with other adults, not with their kids. At this time children need to see their parents as strong and confident that their kids are safe in this world. If not, children will be afraid and suffer needlessly.
2-Listen, Listen, listen. Then listen some more. You'll naturally want to jump in and reassure, express what you think your child needs, but what kids need isn't a one size fits all response.
3- Answer questions honestly, at an age appropriate level. The key is honesty, because kids of all ages have great BS meters. If they don't think they're hearing straight answers, they'll be more fearful. It's okay to say you don't know, when they ask "why". Ask for their thoughts before providing your own. Nobody knows for sure, but the police are investigating to make sure this doesn't happen again. "Will this happen to me?" Your child has a better chance of winning the lottery or being struck by lightning is far greater. There are 7 billion people in the world. 27 people were killed. That's a much smaller chance than reaching into a box of Cheerios and picking out one specific piece of cereal.
4- Reassure your kids they are safe and that most adults protect children.
5- Some children will experience PTSD symptoms like nightmares, problems with eating, school phobia. If these symptoms occur for longer than a week or two, seek professional help. Schools may have extra counselor's available, but if your child is suffering in a more acute manner or for a more extended period of time than her peers, seek additional therapy outside school.
6- Keep the lines of communication open. Your child may be helped by doing something active like drawing a picture for the school or making a sympathy card. Sending such an expression can be extremely therapeutic.
7- Take care if your own feelings by talking to other adults and parents.
8- Keep normal routines and bedtimes. Routines create a sense of safety.